The tech Budget? Is Crypto Phil Hammond doing enough to create an AI revolution in the UK?

 In Articles, Library

An article published on Information Age on 30 October 2018

Written by Michael Baxter


Usually, nicknames are what other people give us. In his latest budget, unveiled on October 29th 2018, the chancellor referred to himself as Fiscal Phil. But if he really wants to go down in history he should instead seek to be known as AI Phil, or even IoT Phil, Crypto Phil or if you want a more snappy title: Techy Phil.

On the occasion of his latest opportunity to bask in the limelight, Techy Phil unveiled the promise of a tech Budget.

Among the tech budget related plans:

• A Cryptoassets Taskforce – having the task of setting out the UK’s approach to cryptoassets and distributed ledger technologies in financial services, including actions that will allow innovators to thrive and the benefits of these new technologies to be realised while at the same time mitigating the risks that arise from cryptoassets.

• A new £50 million per year fund designed to address the most pressing challenges in areas such as public health and cyber security.

• Up to £78 million for the Stephenson Challenge, supporting innovation in electric motor technology.

• A further £235 million to support the development and commercialisation of quantum technologies, including up to £70 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, and £35 million to support a new national quantum computing centre. This takes overall funding for the second phase of the UK’s National Quantum Technology Programme to £315 million.

• Nuclear fusion – £20 million in 2019-20 for the UK Atomic Energy Agency to accelerate…the development and commercialisation of fusion technologies.

• The Office for AI and Government Digital Service (GDS) will review how government can use AI, automation and data in new ways to drive public sector productivity and wider economic benefits.

• The Data Science Campus at the ONS and the GDS will conduct an audit of data science capability across the public sector, to make sure the UK public sector can realise the maximum benefits from data.

• The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation has been commissioned to study the use of data in shaping people’s online experiences, and the potential for bias in decisions made using algorithms.

• The government will invest up to £50 million in new Turing AI Fellowships to bring the best global researchers in AI to the UK, and £100 million in an international fellowship scheme.

• Catapults to support entrepreneurs and businesses to access and adopt cutting-edge technologies, the government is confirming £115 million to extend funding for the Digital Catapult, which has centres in the North East, South East and Northern Ireland, and the Medicines Discovery Catapult in Cheshire. This builds on the £1 billion in long-term funding already committed to the broader network of Catapult centres located across the UK.

• The Budget Red Book said: “Distributed ledger technologies (DLT), such as blockchain, could revolutionise how information is recorded, protected, stored and shared, transforming financial markets, supply chains and public services. To test their potential, the Digital Catapult will run a series of DLT Field Labs, working with businesses, investors, and regulators in a range of areas, including in construction and the management of goods in ports.”

• A new £50 million per year fund designed to address the most pressing challenges in areas such as public health and cyber security. The fund will focus on joint programmes between government and industry, and will begin in 2021-22.

• The Intellectual Property Office will support more companies to use their intellectual property to access finance, piloting a new offer to help businesses secure high-quality valuations, and will work with banks to improve their awareness of the opportunities and true credit risk associated with such lending.

But is all this really such a big deal?

A recent report from PwC forecast that AI could lift European GDP by 9.9%. between now and 2030. But China is expected to see a 26.1% lift. The UK needs to aspire to do better than merely seeing a 10% jump in GDP over ten years or so thanks to AI.

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